Friday, January 31, 2014

Interview with Tyler Bradley from My Fictions

My Fictions are an explosively chaotic and screamy band who hail from Massachusetts. The last few years have seen the band keeping quite busy, releasing a split 7” with Aviator, a 10”, their own 7”, and just a few months ago a rather ambitious collaborative split LP with The Saddest Landscape. The band is currently putting the finishing touches on their debut LP which will be released this summer on Topshelf Records.

Despite their powerful sound and prolific output, they unfortunately seem to be flying under a lot of people’s radar. Hopefully that begins to change soon, as they are proving themselves a force to be reckoned with.

I emailed guitar player Tyler Bradley today, and over the course of several hours we had this conversation.

Talk a little bit about the formation of the band, how you guys all met, and how you wound up coming together as My Fictions?

Our formation was pretty simple: just some teenage friends who wanted to play music together. Ryan, Bryan and I (Tyler) have been playing together in some capacity since 2006 and Seamus entered the picture in 2008.

What was the original sonic vision for the band in terms of influences, what you hoped to sound like, and how has that evolved over the course of the band?

I can't really say exactly what kind of sound we were going for at first and I guess I still can't. I think we've always been a weird mix of things. I don't think any of us go into the writing process thinking, "I really want to sound like band A and band B, etc.” Things have just developed naturally I suppose and we just try to play to our strengths. I always prefer trying to create a vibe or atmosphere as opposed to writing music that adheres to a certain genre. Not to say we don't sound like other bands, though. I'm sure there are a ton of bands you could compare us to, I'm just saying that's not our goal. We don't really know what we're doing so what do I know?

Yeah I would say I've always felt like you guys brought a lot of influences to the table. The early stuff seemed more in the vein of the whole "screamo revival"/"wave" thing, but then I heard "Always Trapped" and was really knocked on my ass by how much more chaotic and frantic it was; I heard a lot of Converge influence more than anything. How would you say the new LP compares in terms of the atmosphere you were trying to create?

Yeah, it's hard to deny that we take influence from Converge. I'm pretty excited about the LP. The atmosphere is dark and I think we brought that out with a few slower and heavier parts. Writing enough songs for a full length forced us to try some new things which I'm happy about and I'm looking forward to experimenting even more in the future.

It seems like as far back as I can remember Massachusetts has always been such an amazing hotbed of new music. How would you characterize things there at the moment, and who are some of the bands from the area that you would say you’ve been able to develop a kinship with over the years?

Massachusetts/Boston does have a great history with hardcore and independent music. I think that's something I probably take for granted, though. Maybe we're in the middle of another historical time within Massachusetts music right now, but it doesn't really feel that way. I think that's a question better answered by people not from the area. I also think things get blown out of proportion and the perspective gets skewed. An area might have 50 very notable bands, which may sound like a lot, but that's also over the course of maybe 35 years. So is that really that much "good" music? It obviously all depends on taste too. I'm sure there are plenty of people, fans of hardcore/punk or otherwise, who don't care for any bands from Massachusetts.

I don't want to speak for everyone in the band, but I'm not an extremely social person and have kind of bad social anxiety so it's hard for me to get close to new people. There are obviously bands we have friends in, though, and almost all of my closest friends play in bands or are a part of the punk community in some way. I'm even lucky enough to have a job that exists because of punk/hardcore in general.

You guys have a lot of fairly prolific recording engineers in your area (I’m thinking Ballou, Maas, Killingsworth) but I noticed you’ve self-recorded the vast majority of your material. Why has it been so important to keep the recording process within the band and how do you feel it has shaped the band’s sound, writing process, musicianship, etc.?

We do have some cool studios and engineers around here but we're content doing it ourselves. It's partly a cost thing, to be honest. In 2014, recording music isn't as specialized of a field as it used to be (whether or not that's a good thing is a debate in and of itself) and we're not analog/tape snobs so why not take advantage of doing things on our own time? Not needing to really be concerned about a budget is a huge plus as well. I feel like I can translate the ideas we have well enough so it just doesn't seem worth spending $5000 for basically what ends up being a marketing sticker, especially for a band as small as we are. Also, our music is personal and we have a pretty good idea of how we want to sound and what we want to do so an additional set of ears doesn't really appeal to us. I don't understand why an artist would want anyone else's input while creating something. I know I'm not a great "engineer" by any means but I like doing it and it works out well enough for us so what the hell? At this point, it just feels like an extension of my role in the band.

That’s pretty awesome you have a job within punk and hardcore. What do you do, and how did you fall into that line of work?

Ryan and I both work for Bridge Nine. We both handle a handful of things each as it's still a small business and we all need to pull our weight. Ryan started a few years before me but we both got hired in similar ways. There was a part time spot open and I got the job and was eventually offered a full time position. Pretty much the same story for Ryan. We actually all work within music, really. Bryan works at Run For Cover and Seamus has a hand in a few things related to music.

That's interesting that you work for B9. As small as they are in the grand scheme of things, it definitely seems like they are more "professional" in terms of having artists who are on the road pretty much year round, basically having their own merch line, getting their bands on huge tours like Warped, etc. As someone with an inside view so to speak, what do you see as some of the pros and cons of a punk/hardcore label being run with somewhat more of a business angle in mind?

Almost every label, regardless of size, is a business. A business is a pretty simple concept: the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money. Regardless of what your goals are as a label, I can't think of one that doesn't exist by that definition. The only cons I see with some of the really big "indie" labels are that they often work with bands based mostly on how profitable they are. But then again, who's to blame for that? Popularity isn't manufactured by businesses, it's created by consumers. People aren't going to support or buy something they don't want, regardless of how well it's marketed. Luckily, Bridge Nine doesn't operate like that. I've only been here for a year and a half but it certainly seems like we put out records for bands we really like and try to provide those bands with as many opportunities as we can. So the pros are that cool bands get chances they might not get somewhere else and the fact that a handful of other people and I have jobs in this field.

How has the relationship with Topshelf been up to this point? I know those guys either started out at or still work for Bridge 9 so I imagine you work pretty closely with them? As that label continues to grow, do you ever see a point where My Fictions becomes more of a full time or close to full time touring band?

The relationship with Topshelf has been great. We're very grateful that they're willing to put out records for us and it's definitely given us a chance to do cool things. Seth actually works full time for Bridge Nine. We share a building with Topshelf but the labels are very separate. It's nice for stuff like distro items as we can just walk over to one another to grab that stuff as we need it. It's really difficult for me to see us as a full time band. It wouldn't really depend on the growth of Topshelf as they're already pretty big and that doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon, which is awesome for them. I just don't know if that's in the cards for us. I can't picture us as a full time band, at least in the current iteration of "full time band". I don't think we'll ever be popular enough to sustain that and I'm totally okay with that. Success is a much more ambiguous term than we're led to believe. 

I love creating music more than anything else and I don't see why I would ever have to stop doing that. I don't know if I'd want to take a chance on being a full time musician and have a 5-10 year long career (if you're lucky) and end up resenting the band and music in general. I love music too much to spoil it for myself. It seems like almost every hardcore band that makes a go at playing music for a living burns out on it. Hardcore/punk audiences are rough on the bands they love. They get chewed up and spit out pretty quickly. That doesn't seem worth it to me. But who knows? If somehow, someday an amazing opportunity presents itself to us then I think we'd certainly consider it but I just can't picture it at the moment.

In terms of the recording side, I feel like your stuff has sounded progressively better with each release. Is it all trial and error for you or given that you work around music all the time have there been people who have been particularly helpful in giving you tips on how to approach certain things? Have you ever considered recording other bands as your skills blossom or do you think you’ll stick to recording your own projects?

Thank you. That's encouraging to hear. Granted, I didn't record, mix or master our split with The Saddest Landscape so I can't take any credit there. I recorded some of the group vocals for it but that's it. Most of it is definitely trial and error, though. I'm always trying new things and looking into techniques to help me improve (YouTube and forums can be amazing tools). I think it's the type of thing that is a lifelong work in progress, especially as technology continues to develop. I can't really cite anyone that I know personally who has really pushed me forward as far as recording goes. I muscle my way through most things and just try to improve as I go along. I've actually been recording other bands and projects since I was 15 or 16. I think I've worked with somewhere around 150 bands/artists. I've slowed down over the past few years and pretty much only worked with friends/projects I'm really interested in. It's tough to find the time since I started working full time.

So going back to the new LP, you mentioned that musically things are a little heavier, slower, darker. What sort of lyrical themes are explored on the new record, and where do you generally find inspiration lyrically speaking?
Well, not slower in general. Some of the songs are the fastest we've ever written, but we dive into slower territory a handful of times. We're actually starting vocals this weekend so I'm not positive about lyrics or themes. Bryan writes all of the lyrics and I haven't gotten any previews.

When is the record expected to drop and do you anticipate any sort of touring once it’s out? If so, do you think you guys will roll solo or bring another band or two out with you?

We're shooting for a spring/early summer release. We're definitely trying to do some touring this year. Hopefully something in conjunction with the LP and possibly our first time leaving the country as a band.

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